Sparkling seas, sugar-cube villages, cliff-hanging hamlets, ancient temples, delicious Mediterranean food and mesmerising sunsets – the Greek Islands offer so much. Just ask Shirley Valentine.
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Destination guide for Spetses
Spetses, Greek Islands, Greece
The preferred weekend destination of Greek shipping scions and European old money, Spetses has a refined air and rich heritage. The handsome 19th-century mansions that line the waterfront and pedestrian backstreets are the legacy of a long-standing shipping industry.
Local naval commanders – including Laskarina Bouboulina, a female freedom fighter, whose home is now a fascinating museum — played a pivotal role in the Greek War of Independence. In the small working boatyard, beautiful wooden fishing boats are still made by hand.
Surprisingly green and extremely well-preserved, Spetses is fringed with small beaches that are easily accessible on foot, bicycle, or by boat. Cars are banned, but locals use mopeds and three-wheelers to get around.
Boats dock at Dapia, the ‘new’ harbour, lined with canons, cafés, and chi-chi shops. Water taxis and horse-drawn carriages await to whisk you off to the pine-fringed beaches or to the old harbour, a more sedate affair with wonderful seafood restaurants right on the water’s edge.
The intriguing Bouboulina Museum and Cine Titania, a delightful open-air cinema, are just behind the main harbour of Dapia.
Food & Drink
Fish ‘a la Spetsiota’ is a local speciality: fillets of fish cooked in a tangy tomato, wine, and parsley sauce. Many local restaurants (such as Tarsanas and Nero tis Agapis) have their own fishing boats, so seafood is exceptionally fresh and delicious.
Amygdalota from Spetses, a local type of marzipan, are highly prized by Greeks. Politis is the most famous purveyor of these sugar bombs.
Also see our round-up of traditional Greek foods to try in Greece for some other foodie delights you’ll no doubt come across while you’re there.
When to go
Close to the Peloponnese and easily accessible from Athens, Spetses sees plenty of action all year round. Second homeowners from the mainland fill the isle at weekends.
Special events such as the Tweed Run in October, Spetsathlon (Spetses triathlon) in May, and classic yacht regatta in June draw a crowd in the low season.
The island is overrun on the second weekend of September for the Armata, a reconstruction of an epic naval battle in 1822, complete with fireworks and burning replica ships. Avoid August if you can.
Getting there and away
High-speed catamarans and ‘flying dolphins’ depart several times a day from Piraeus. The journey time is 2-3 hours hours, depending on the vessel. Most boats stop at Poros and Hydra on the way to Spetses.
It’s also possible to drive (approx. 3.5 hours) from Athens to the port of Kosta in the Peloponnese, and from there take a boat or water taxi (10-15 mins) to Spetses. There is also a ferry service from Porto Heli to Spetses; the journey time is about 10 minutes.
Hotels will usually pick you and your luggage up from the port. Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on the four licenced taxis, dinky three-wheeler ‘cabs’, pricey water taxis, and even pricier horse-drawn carriages to get around.
A cheaper option is to rent a scooter. Better still rent a bicycle/e-bike, or explore the island at a more leisurely pace on foot.
Where to stay
Opt for Dapia and environs if you want to be right in the thick of things. For a more genteel and peaceful atmosphere, stay in and around the Old Harbour (or Palio Limani in Greek).
Spetses is a small, flat island, so distances and mobility are rarely an issue.
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